From the viewpoint of a judge – Investor Allstars Awards

I have been judging the Investor Allstars awards since the start, now some 11 years, and I still use the same old jokes on my fellow judges. However while the jokes may not have advanced, the quality of the contestants has improved markedly.

Another Investor Allstars has just happened in what is clearly a buoyant market for tech in Europe. The continent no longer has to celebrate a few outliers from a different era (Autonomy, Arm, Business Objects) but now has new Allstars to reckon with like Zoopla, JUST EAT and

I think this is the first big takeaway (excuse the JUST EAT pun) from the Allstars. For an investor like me who has been active in Europe for 25 years, it was never doubtful that European tech could create some value, but the proof points were few and far between. That is no longer the case. European tech is exciting with exits in a number of areas and, in particular, areas where Europe excels such as in fashion, luxury brands and games.

The second takeaway is the activity of US and other late stage private equity investors in providing financing and partial exits. Surely a welcome trend and proof that we are coming of age as a market. 

The third takeaway is how the Nordics, especially Sweden and Finland have punched above their weight in the European tech scene. These large area countries with small populations have proportionally eclipsed other large countries with large populations with a stream of big hits like Supercell, Klarna and Spotify. I had a chance to glimpse some future all-stars before the evening event and can safely say that the hits will keep coming from the Nordics, maybe in ways we don’t expect. I can’t say more for now…

My fourth learning is that the Russians are coming. Actually they are already here as sponsors, investors, internet and technology companies and now patrons of the tech scene in Europe. We have a French Allstar Company of the Year, BlaBlaCar, finding that its fastest growing markets are to the east. Regardless of what we think of the Kremlin, nothing will keep the Russian entrepreneur or consumer down. A large population hungry for everything with increasing Internet access is a sure-fire winning combination.

BlaBlaCar co-founder Nicholas Brusson

BlaBlaCar’s Nicholas Brusson has helped to build a formidable business

In another first, headline sponsor and investor Sferiq, from Russia, headed by fellow judge Ulvi Kasimov, gave away the first Sferiq Award for Digital Innovation in Art that night to winner ArtStack. Again evidence of the closer integration of talented Russian Entrepreneurs and investors into the ecosystem of Europe and the fact that they are even sponsoring prizes for new categories of entrepreneurs. Surely this is the way it should be.

More from Investor Allstars:

While some have joked about the VC Fund of the Year award being the Index Ventures VC Fund of the Year Award, since they have won so often, the spread has tightened and while they pipped those honours, others achieved new glory in equally meaningful areas. The Investor of the Year prize went to Kevin Comolli who has built Accel into a powerhouse, including such talent as Sonali de Rycker and lately the great Fred Destin, fresh back from the US. And Kevin’s Supercell also achieved Exit of the Year, a truly signature deal.

Many ask if there is a bubble. Probably there is, but my view is actually positive. As one Silicon Valley mate and I decided one night, drinking bubbly, we made a lot of money in bubbles. So I always hope for a bubble forming somewhere, sometime, on the planet, whether it is in internet valuations or in classic cars. Sadly my cars may be classic in vintage only, not value.

Somehow there is always some counterpoint to the show, despite its high production values as we used to say in Hollywood (where I lived for eight years). The dissonance is in the entertainment, which can barely be heard above the din of people enjoying themselves after being heavily-fueled. I think one year was actually what seemed to be pro-wrestler acrobats from somewhere up North. We didn’t dare ask.

Others commented on the magician last year and fortunately this year was a musician playing a ROLI Seaboard GRAND (keyboard). Very tactile, this is a full expression keyboard sequencer allowing the musician to dial in a lot of expression without programming. The musician was quickly surrounded by attendee nerd-musicians on stage. And in the true tradition of England’s long, rich, electronic musical heritage in innovation, like the ARP synthesizer, this product hails from England.


The ROLI Seaboard GRAND makes for a truly digital music experience

It is always dangerous to self-congratulate, but I think, despite the macro news and political upheaval in Europe, the European technology sector is alive and very well.


George Coelho

George Coelho is based in London and is managing director at Good Energies. Before that he was with venture capital firm Balderton Capital which he co-founded in 2000. He serves as a board director of...

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